Smoke rises over the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa, March 10, 2017. (Reuters/Alaa Faqir)
Smoke rises over the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa, March 10, 2017. (Reuters/Alaa Faqir)

Syrian journalist killed by airstrike in Daraa

Washington, D.C, March 13, 2017–Yesterday’s death of freelance journalist Mohamed Abazied in an airstrike on the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa highlights the dangers that journalists and all civilians face in Syria’s long-running conflict, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Abazied was killed while reporting on Russian and Syrian military airstrikes on the city yesterday, according to his employers and other news reports.

Abazied, also known professionally as George Samara, contributed to the pro-opposition satellite station Nabd Syria and the Syria Media Organization (SMO), which also is sympathetic to the Syrian opposition. Both reported that he was covering the airstrikes at the time of his death, and the journalist posted live video of the attacks on his Facebook page just before his death.

“Mohamed Abazied’s death reminds the world of the risks Syrian journalists continue to take to report on the conflict there,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. “We urge all sides to make every effort to guarantee the safety of all civilians, including journalists.”

In the video he posted to Facebook just before his death, Abazied appears in an abandoned building and describes what he says are the sounds of Russian and Syrian planes bombing civilians in the area. Another person briefly appears in the video to warn him of an approaching fighter plane ready to attack.

“Let them go ahead,” he responds. “Death is better than humiliation.”

The London-based regional news website Al-Arabi al-Jadid reported that a rocket hit the area where Abazied was broadcasting as he was preparing to leave, killing him immediately.

Abazied, 40, lived in Daraa for six years prior to his death. His own home was destroyed in an airstrike last year, according to local news reports. In his reports for SMO and Nabd Syria, he covered the civilian casualties, the destruction of residential buildings and infrastructure, and the plight of those forced to flee the conflict in Daraa.

On March 10, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate, told reporters in a press briefing that Russian aircraft had carried out 452 airstrikes to support the Syrian government’s push to retake eastern Aleppo province the previous week alone.

Syria was the deadliest country in the world for journalists last year. At least 107 journalists have been killed while working there since the uprising began in 2011, according to CPJ research.